Some of the most destructive policies currently being advanced by the Trump administration affect only limited groups of people. Native American tribes have felt the calamitous result of the decision to ignore their rights, with the reinstituted building of the Dakota Access pipeline traversing their sacred sites. The promise to gut the Affordable Care Act would hit nearly 10 percent of America’s citizens. The obscenely proposed border wall would be an affront to our Mexican neighbors. And the ban on immigrants targets only a modest group from a handful of muslim nations.
But there is a policy being pushed by Trump that will seriously affect the lives of not only all Americans but also of every person currently living, and everyone born from now on. If this sounds like an overblown statement, read on. I’m talking about our nation’s proposed rejection of the Paris climate accord on global warming, and Trump’s further promise to end all projects aimed at curtailing atmospheric carbon emissions. The rise in ocean levels — a direct result of climate change — has already obliterated five small island nations in the South Pacific. If climate change is left uncontrolled, it will just be a matter of time before the waters of the Atlantic lap at the hooves of the bronze Wall Street bull.
Scientists from almost every nation on the planet tell us that global warming exists, that human activity is the substantial cause and that if left unchanged, it will produce an ecological calamity. Without a shred of scientific evidence, Trump calls it all a hoax. Why? Because following where science leads will interfere with corporate interests — specifically those of the fossil fuel energy giants.
Four hundred years ago an Italian cosmic tinkerer and mathematician came to the conclusion that the astronomer Copernicus was correct: the earth did orbit the sun, as did all the other planets. As a result, the richest, most powerful corporation of that era, the Roman Catholic Church, had Galileo seized, tried, convicted, and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. Science was bad for business! Besides, if the Bible held that the earth was at the center and the sun revolved around it, that ended the argument.
In any controversy between science and religion, religion usually won. Three hundred and fifty years later, Pope John Paul II admitted that Galileo was right, and reversed the sentence. Even today, there are a handful of religionists who hold that the Bible says the universe was created in seven 24-hour days about four thousand years ago. And for them, that’s the absolute unmitigated truth, no matter what science says. But the odds have changed, and in the controversy between science and religion, your safe bet now may be with science.
However, if science now may win when the opposition comes from religion, it has a new adversary that is not so easily defeated. It is conservative politics, backed by corporate money. Any scientific body no matter how wide-ranging or otherwise convincing, that posits the danger of climate change now faces a new opponent composed of political forces backed by corporate power and wealth. If Trump says climate change is a hoax and has the support of Congress and the nation’s richest most influential corporate interests, how can the world’s scientists prevail or even make their case? If the Secretary of State — formerly the head of the world’s largest fossil fuel energy company — and much of the Cabinet who are power brokers from Wall Street, declare that the world’s scientists are promoting a hoax, the argument may just be starting.
Trump regularly plays so loose with the truth that a new phrase for lies, “alternative facts,” had to be invented to cover the deceit. And yet I believe that the American people know better and that the insanity now emanating from the White House shall not continue to define our nation. Until then, all of us and the generations that follow will remain at risk. But unlike the supporters of Galileo, we can’t wait 350 years for scientific truth to triumph.